It’s Christmas morning and you realize that you spent $100 more on one child than the other. Ugh. Will your daughter think you love her less? You have definitely done the dishes AND laundry every day this week and your spouse took the garbage out once. Hmmm. Seems a bit unfair. You never seem to get invited to that charity golf outing where all the deals are done. But Bob? Yeah, he gets invited every time. What you are doing is keeping score. The problem is if you are ahead or behind, it’s just not helping you.
There is a cost to all this score keeping. And you are the one who pays the cost. First of all, you damage your self-worth. In keeping score, you are feeling less than by comparison. Second, the information you are scoring against is always flawed. It’s just your perception. Maybe Bob is a horrible golfer so he’s getting invited to make everyone else look good. Maybe your spouse spent three hours in the rain at a baseball game for your kid. Your kids never saw the price tags of their presents and don’t equate money with being loved. Lastly, it doesn’t move you forward. In fact, it puts you in a negative spiral, where you are constantly comparing yourself to confirm that you are overworked and underappreciated. Not a good space to be in.
So here is the antidote to keeping score:
- It’s an inside job. Who is exactly keeping score? You are. It’s starts with you acknowledging that you are doing it. I used to resent doing the dishes. I grew up in a family where Mom cooked and Dad washed the dishes (pretty remarkable since my dad was born in 1925). I have expected in my married life that my spouse would do the dishes. And if he didn’t? I resented it. That resentment was not hurting anyone but myself, and it would snowball into who bought groceries, vacuumed and took the kids to doctor visits. As Byron Katie, author of Love What Is, wrote, “What I call ‘doing the dishes’ is the practice of loving the task in front of you.” Resenting it or loving it is an inside job. Choose love.
- Catch yourself doing something right. It’s easy to get caught up in the negative. You can’t seem to get the DVD player to work or you still haven’t figured out pivot tables in Excel. Think about what you have been successful at. It’s funny. I’ve been writing this blog weekly for over 5 years and have been read in over 100 countries. That’s pretty cool. In fact, it’s awesome. But I completely forget about how amazing that is in my day-to-day life until someone makes a comment. It takes a moment. Like when I ran into someone who had been a reader of mine for years in Chicago (yes, you Chris) and he told me how much he loves my blog. And for a brief moment, I felt like a Rock Star! Tally up what you’ve accomplished. Maybe you tried a new recipe or made someone’s day by calling them out of the blue. Take stock and tally up what you are doing right.
- Be present. Truth be told, I now enjoy washing dishes. It’s a moment to be present, and mixing warm water with soap is a lovely experience. It’s a moment for me to get out of my head and back into my body. Listen to the water, feel the suds on your hands and the ceramic of the plate. As Byron Katie posits, “We are really alive when we live as simply as that — open, waiting, trusting, and loving to do what appears in front of us now.” Washing the dishes is about living and loving what is present now.
- Break it into pieces. I travel fairly frequently and I used to hate returning home to a mountain of unsorted mail, a full suitcase of dirty clothes and a dishwasher full of unclean dishes. It can be overwhelming. The secret is to piece it out. One task. Run the dishwasher. Sort the mail. One piece of mail here, one over there. Sort the laundry. One load of laundry at a time. In the age of rapid technology and moving at breakneck speeds, it’s all about breaking things down into doable chunks. Even better if you can have a smile on your face and take pleasure in the task and your accomplishments. Escape the overwhelm by doing one piece at a time.
- Be grateful. When you notice that your spouse mowed the lawn, thank them. When someone compliments you on your facilitation, thank them. Gratitude really takes you out of score-keeping so long as you don’t add anything on like “Thanks for doing the dishes. Will you go clean the garage now?” Nope, that is not straight-up gratitude. Don’t qualify it. Just say thank you, be genuine and be done. And put a period at the end of the sentence. Express gratitude without trying to score a point.
As I ask my coaching clients frequently, “Who are you in control of?” The only one you can control is yourself. Keeping score suggests that you can have an impact on the final score. The only score you are in control of is your own self and how you respond. What do you keep score on?